AREA OF FOCUS HUMAN RIGHTS

Human rights are inalienable, universal rights belonging to every single human being, irrespective of race, religion or creed. We raise awareness of human rights issues around the world via our news coverage and by training local journalists to report accurately on these issues.

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AREA OF FOCUS HUMAN
RIGHTS

FOCUS AREAS | MEDIA FREEDOM


Human rights are fundamental to our mission because societies cannot be free, fair or equal without respect for these rights. These rights are firmly enshrined in international law, most notably in the Universal Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been ratified by most national governments around the world.

For as long as the Thomson Reuters Foundation has existed, protecting and advancing human rights has been at the core of our work. Whether it be reporting on hidden human rights issues, training journalists around the world to do the same, providing free legal support and impactful research to frontline organisations, or convening diverse and global actors in this space, all our work has been focused on empowering individuals and helping to strengthen free, fair and informed societies. While human rights underpin all of what we do, our work is grounded in the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles of independence, integrity, and freedom from bias.

The fight to secure or defend human rights around the world is ongoing, with basic freedoms and access to necessities being eroded, threatened or failing to exist entirely. At the same time, the technological revolution has created multiple evolving and complex threats to human rights – with grave concerns about privacy, discrimination and exploitation, to name but a few.

What we do

We work to shape public discourse about new and ongoing human rights issues through our own news coverage as well as our journalism training, legal support and research for NGOs influencing policy change, and by seeking out experts and activists with whom we can work to advance human rights, with the aim of:

  • Highlighting some of the most critical human rights issues
  • Driving policy change to advance human rights
  • Leading collaborative approaches to amplify impact at scale

Our human rights work centres on thematic issues including:

  • Freedom of speech and expression
  • Forced labour and human trafficking
  • Data and digital rights
  • Women’s rights
  • LGBT+ rights
  • Climate
  • Land and property rights

SERVICES

Award-winning journalism

Our global news team covers the new frontier of human rights. From reporting on slavery in supply chains to the human impact of climate change, to issues affecting the LGBT+ community and women, we highlight the lives of the billions of people around the world who struggle to live freely and are unable to live fairly.

CASE STUDYBlood Mica

We investigated India’s illegal mica mines in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, to reveal that children as young as five had been working to source the shiny mineral that puts the sparkle in make-up and paint. Our three-month multimedia investigation also found that seven children had died in the mines, and that their deaths had been covered up by their own parents for fear of retaliation and financial losses.

The findings were backed up by India’s child protection group Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) – the organisation funded by Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi – which separately documented more than 20 mica-related deaths in June 2016. Our investigation received worldwide coverage, and a few weeks after its publication the biggest carmaker in the world, Volkswagen, announced it had suspended ties with some mica suppliers in India. India’s Ministry of Mines admitted it lacked an effective mechanism to inspect the mica mines.

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CASE STUDYMissing wombs: India’s health scandal

We investigated India’s illegal mica mines in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, to reveal that children as young as five had been working to source the shiny mineral that puts the sparkle in make-up and paint. Our three-month multimedia investigation also found that seven children had died in the mines, and that their deaths had been covered up by their own parents for fear of retaliation and financial losses.

The findings were backed up by India’s child protection group Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) – the organisation funded by Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi – which separately documented more than 20 mica-related deaths in June 2016. Our investigation received worldwide coverage, and a few weeks after its publication the biggest carmaker in the world, Volkswagen, announced it had suspended ties with some mica suppliers in India. India’s Ministry of Mines admitted it lacked an effective mechanism to inspect the mica mines.

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CASE STUDYOpenly

We investigated India’s illegal mica mines in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, to reveal that children as young as five had been working to source the shiny mineral that puts the sparkle in make-up and paint. Our three-month multimedia investigation also found that seven children had died in the mines, and that their deaths had been covered up by their own parents for fear of retaliation and financial losses.

The findings were backed up by India’s child protection group Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) – the organisation funded by Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi – which separately documented more than 20 mica-related deaths in June 2016. Our investigation received worldwide coverage, and a few weeks after its publication the biggest carmaker in the world, Volkswagen, announced it had suspended ties with some mica suppliers in India. India’s Ministry of Mines admitted it lacked an effective mechanism to inspect the mica mines.

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CASE STUDYBrunei and Uganda’s death penalty laws for LGBT+ people

We investigated India’s illegal mica mines in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, to reveal that children as young as five had been working to source the shiny mineral that puts the sparkle in make-up and paint. Our three-month multimedia investigation also found that seven children had died in the mines, and that their deaths had been covered up by their own parents for fear of retaliation and financial losses.

The findings were backed up by India’s child protection group Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) – the organisation funded by Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi – which separately documented more than 20 mica-related deaths in June 2016. Our investigation received worldwide coverage, and a few weeks after its publication the biggest carmaker in the world, Volkswagen, announced it had suspended ties with some mica suppliers in India. India’s Ministry of Mines admitted it lacked an effective mechanism to inspect the mica mines.

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SERVICES

Groundbreaking legal research

Our pro bono legal network connects organisations working at the frontline of advancing human rights around the world, with lawyers who can assist with their legal needs for free.

CASE STUDYEnding FGM in Africa

Across the African continent, 55 million girls are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), half of whom live in three countries that already have legislation around the practice. We connected 28 Too Many – a UK-based charity working to eradicate FGM in the 28 African countries in which it is still practised – with a team of more than 120 lawyers. Coordinated by law firm Latham & Watkins, the team worked tirelessly to produce ground-breaking reports that highlight examples of best practice, lessons learned, and recommendations for the formation of sound legal frameworks that will contribute to the global elimination of FGM. The resulting reports are already having an impact in multiple African countries and are being used by a range of stakeholders.

In Kenya, the country report is helping local and international FGM activists in a court case against Kenyan medic, Dr Tatu Kamau. In Egypt, it has been used in conversation with parliamentarians, and in Geneva 28 Too Many presented their findings to the Human Rights Council.

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CASE STUDYEnding child marriage in the US

It’s increasingly recognised worldwide that child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before the age of 18, is a human rights violation and a serious barrier to socio-economic development. The US named the fight against child marriage as a foreign policy objective, yet the early or forced marriage of children is ongoing in the country. While most US states set 18 as the minimum age for marriage, exceptions in every jurisdiction exist. According to marriage licence data collected by advocacy group Unchained At Last, the only US non-profit dedicated to ending child and forced marriage in the country, more than 167,000 children as young as 12 were married in 38 states in the US between 2000 and 2010. The organisation estimates nearly a quarter of a million children were married across all US states between 2000 and 2010.

We connected Unchained At Last with law firm White & Case, to assist with free legal advice to underpin their advocacy efforts and outlaw child marriage in New Jersey. Following months of campaigning by the group, in November 2016 the New Jersey Assembly voted in favour of the new law, and in March 2017 the bill was passed by the state senate. Unchained at Last continues its partnership with White & Case, writing, introducing and advocating for legislation, state by state, to ensure that the entire country enshrines 18 as the absolute minimum age for marriage in law, with no exceptions allowed. The scope of the pro bono research has since been expanded to cover other US states, including California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.


CASE STUDYProtecting victims of sextortion worldwide

Sextortion’ is a pervasive, yet under-reported, form of corruption involving sexual exploitation, such as: judges demanding sex in exchange for visas or favourable custody decisions; landlords threatening to evict tenants unless they have sex with them; supervisors making job security contingent on sex; and principals conditioning student graduation on sex. Today the crime has become digital, and women, as well as children, are especially vulnerable.

In 2015, in collaboration with the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) and a global team of law firms (Marval, O’Farrell and Mairal, Hogan Lovells, Mishcon De Reya, Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa, Simba & Simba Advocates, Torys LLP and Rakhee Ditta), we launched the guide ‘Combating Sextortion: A Comparative Study of Laws to Prosecute Corruption Involving Sexual Exploitation’. The study outlined laws and practices relating to the crime in nine jurisdictions, spanning six continents: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Kenya, Mexico, Taiwan, Uganda and the United Kingdom.

In 2016, together with Legal Momentum and law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, we produced a report entitled ‘A Call to Action: Ending ‘Sextortion’ in the Digital Age’, taking a more specific look at the United States and at how sextortion has evolved.

Following the publication of the research, Legal Momentum and Orrick embarked on a nation-wide advocacy campaign to update state laws to take into account ‘sextortion’. Within a few months, Utah, Arkansas and Alabama had passed the first pieces of legislation in the US which make ‘sextortion’ a punishable crime.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation has been instrumental in helping us launch and sustain cutting-edge projects that protect the rights of girls and women both nationally and internationally.
Carol Robles-Román, President and CEO, Legal Momentum

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CASE STUDYBan on conversion therapy for LGBT youth in Illinois

We connected LGBT-rights NGO Equality Illinois and international law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which produced legal research used to advocate for the ban of conversion therapy for LGBT youth in Illinois. The research looked at federal and state laws regarding the ban of gay conversion therapy as well as the gay and transgender ‘panic defence’, a tactic invoked against charges of assault or murder where the defendant claims to have acted in a state of temporary insanity triggered by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In May 2015, the Youth Mental Health Protection Act was passed, banning the practice of conversion therapy on minors in the state of Illinois. Equality Illinois continued to advocate for a bill to make the ‘gay panic’ defence inadmissible in the courts of Illinois, and succeeded when it was officially banned in August 2017.

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CASE STUDYEnsuring justice for survivors of acid violence

Acid violence is on the rise, with several thousand attacks occurring across the world every year. However, only a few countries have passed specific laws in relation to the crime. One of the biggest challenges faced by NGOs working on this issue is a lack of information on the effectiveness of existing laws and the way they have been interpreted by the courts. We connected Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) with Baker & McKenzie, J. Sagar Associates, Linklaters and P&A Asia, to produce a comparative study on laws and case law relating to acid violence. The result was the groundbreaking report, ‘Justice? What justice? Tackling acid violence and ensuring justice for survivors’, which analyses data from four different jurisdictions – Cambodia, Colombia, India and the United Kingdom – presenting a comparative legislative framework to assess how acid attack survivors are treated and how perpetrators are punished.

The report is now being used by ASTI as an advocacy tool to secure political and judiciary support and to ensure justice for the survivors of acid violence worldwide. In 2018, after a series of meetings and consultations with ASTI and other stakeholders, the UK Home office announced a series of significant policy changes, including but not limited to listing acid as a potentially dangerous weapon in sentencing guidelines and, under changes to the Poisons Act, requiring members of the public wishing to import, acquire or use sulphuric acid above 15% have to obtain a Home Office licence.

The report informed much of our work when developing policy briefings for parliamentarians and representatives from the British government’s Home Office. It proved essential to ASTI’s advocacy and awareness-raising work.
Jaf Shah, Executive Director, ASTI

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Journalism training

We run courses and mentorship programmes to help journalists navigate the complexities of reporting human rights issues, from trafficking and slavery to women’s rights and LGBT+ issues. All courses are tailored to the needs relating to the geographic areas in which the journalists operate.

CASE STUDYStateless Uzbek woman in Kyrgyzstan awarded citizenship

Journalists participating in our Perspektivy programme, which aims to strengthen independent media in Russian-speaking countries through workshops, mentoring and network-building, uncovered the plight of 17,000 stateless Uzbek women fighting to gain citizenship and social rights in Kyrgyzstan. The investigation attracted global media attention and led the President of Kyrgyzstan to grant citizenship to the protagonist of the film.

Strategic initiatives

The unique approach underpinning the Foundation’s strategic initiatives is to harness the combined power of the media and the law. Using our expertise in these areas, we deploy all our services in the design and execution of initiatives to maximise impact.

CASE STUDYFighting child trafficking and forced labour in Africa

We are collaborating with a consortium of partners led by World Vision UK and including War Child UK, Columbia University, the UN Global Compact Network and Fifty Eight, on a large-scale project supported by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DfID), to combat the worst forms of child labour in Africa. The four-year Aid Connect initiative, launched in October 2018, focuses on Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR) and leverages cross-sector partnerships between NGOs, law enforcement and global corporations, while building children’s agency to advocate for their own rights.

By addressing the management of global supply chains – which has to date failed to eliminate child labour – strengthening legislative frameworks, shedding light on the issue through media coverage and empowering survivors to articulate their experiences, the project aims to change the lives thousands of children, while simultaneously building a knowledge base for what types of intervention are most effective in tackling the problem. The work includes mobilising the business sector to examine its supply chains, identify and share best practice and strengthen its own operations accordingly, as well as supporting local lawyers, policymakers and other government officials to help tackle the worst forms of child labour at a national level.

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CASE STUDYBreaking down human rights barriers to accessing healthcare

We are working in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to support its innovative ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ initiative, with a focus on gender and LGBT+ human rights-related barriers. The Foundation is facilitating legal research and legal capacity-building for civil society partners in key countries supported by the Global Fund. This includes pro bono research on human rights laws, as well as capacity-building workshops for health practitioners, service providers and their clients, and legal guidance for NGOs and civil society groups working in countries with challenging political situations.

The programme also provides training for journalists across eastern and southern Africa to strengthen reporting skills on human rights and health related issues, and to support awareness-raising on human rights-related barriers to health.

What’s coming up?

Building on our solid track record, we will continue to shed a light on human rights issues globally, strengthen and scale up our free legal assistance to human rights organisations, conduct cuttingedge legal research, offer training and mentoring to journalists to better understand human rightsrelated issues, and convene experts from across sectors to scope and drive forward impactful initiatives.

Currently, we are working towards:

  • The creation of multiple digital news products addressing the new frontier of human rights, looking at rapidly developing socio-economic, environmental and technological human rights issues, and focusing on the lives of people who struggle to live freely and under fair circumstances.
  • Specialised training for journalists covering human rights issues.
  • Additional legal support for human rights NGOs.
  • Additional legal research to shape policy around human rights issues.